Thu, Feb 06, 2020 - Page 1 News List

Wuhan flight passenger list rumors ignite furor

‘NOT IDEAL’:A source said that many of the evacuees from Wuhan were not Taiwanese, sparking speculation about how the flight’s passenger list had been drawn up

By Lee I-chia, Wu Liang-yi and Chung Li-hua  /  Staff reporters

Mainland Affairs Council Deputy Minister Chiu Chui-cheng speaks at a news conference yesterday in Taipei.

Photo: Liu Hsin-de, Taipei Times

The Mainland Affairs Council yesterday said that there would not be any charter flights evacuating Taiwanese from China’s Wuhan either yesterday or today, while it also confirmed that some of the evacuees on the first charter flight from Wuhan on Monday night were not Taiwanese, but Chinese spouses of Taiwanese.

After the Central Epidemic Command Center on Tuesday night announced the 11th confirmed case of 2019 novel coronavirus in Taiwan — a Taiwanese man in his 50s who arrived on the first charter flight and whose fever was detected upon his arrival — local media outlets reported rumors that the man was not included on the passenger list for Monday’s flight.

The reports also cited a source as saying that many of the evacuees were not Taiwanese, but Chinese spouses and family members of Taiwanese, sparking speculation about how the passenger list had been drawn up.

Mainland Affairs Council Minister Chen Ming-tong (陳明通) yesterday said that the council had clearly expressed to Chinese authorities in Wuhan that Taiwanese who were on short trips and lacked resources, as well as children, elderly people and people with chronic diseases that were of higher risk of infection should have been given priority for the charter flight.

“However, the last-minute list of evacuees provided by the Chinese authorities before the plane boarded on Monday was not ideal,” Chen said.

As a passenger’s fever was detected upon his arrival and he was later confirmed to be infected with the 2019 novel coronavirus, disease prevention measures in China would also seem to be flawed, he said.

“Disease prevention measures must be impenetrable before the next charter flight [evacuating Taiwanese] can be arranged,” Chen said.

The council would ensure that disease prevention measures are enhanced, the list of passengers is approved by the council beforehand and that there is enough room in quarantine stations for the evacuees before the next flight is arranged, he said.

Asked to confirm rumors about non-Taiwanese on board the first charter flight, Chen said that all of them were Chinese spouses who held resident certificates for Taiwan.

Separately, asked to confirm a remark by Vincent Hsu (徐正文), who represents a support group for Taiwanese in Wuhan, that a second charter flight would return to Taiwan yesterday, council Deputy Minister Chiu Chui-cheng (邱垂正) said that no charter flights had been scheduled for yesterday or today.

He said that the council would continue to negotiate with Chinese authorities to ensure that passengers on the next flight meet the council’s criteria and the passenger list can be approved by the council at least a day before the flight takes off.

“Some individuals might try to influence the decisionmaking process of who is on board the flights, but only the government has the authority to make those decisions,” Chiu said.

The second charter flight would not be able to take off without the council approving the passenger list, he said.

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